Monday, July 23, 2012



Gov't probe of Japan nuke crisis criticizes TEPCO

Originally published: July 23, 2012 2:51 AM
Updated: July 23, 2012 3:39 AM

TOKYO - (AP) -- Experts investigating Japan's nuclear disaster said Monday that the operator of the crippled plant continues to drag its feet in investigations and has tried to understate the true amount of damage at the complex.

The report, by a government-appointed panel, is the latest of several to fault Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government for doing too little to protect the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant from the massive earthquake and tsunami that set off three meltdowns there in the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

The panel, of 10 independent experts in fields including radiation protection, medicine and law, also said the utility has yet to address problems within its own culture that contributed to its failings in the crisis -- including employees "not fully trained to think for themselves."

"We still don't perceive much enthusiasm in the accident investigation from" the company, the report said. "TEPCO must take our findings sincerely and resolve the problems to achieve a higher level of safety culture across the company."

The panel said TEPCO covered up unfavorable data in a computer analysis attempting to measure the extent of damage inside the reactors earlier this year. It said that in a hearing, TEPCO officials acknowledged the simulation was inadequate, but they have yet to make another attempt.

In interviews with panel members, employees of TEPCO's nuclear department demonstrated expertise in emergency equipment, but many failed to speak up when it was most needed during the crisis, the report said.

For instance, some employees were aware that water gauges attached to containment vessels were likely broken and their measurements unreliable. But none of them raised questions, and the company kept releasing what turned out to be wrong data for months. New gauges installed in one reactor show that there is hardly any water inside, suggesting that the two other two crippled reactors may have similar conditions.

The workers "were not fully trained to think for themselves, and lacked a flexible and proactive way of thinking needed in crisis management," the report said.

Monday's report, like others before it, said the operator and regulators failed to upgrade plant safety and meet international standards to minimize risks, including the possibility of severe damage from power outages.

The three reactors melted down after the March 11, 2011, tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling system. The nuclear disaster displaced tens of thousands of people and will take decades to clean up.

The 450-page report also says the government and its main nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, promoted nuclear power as an entirely safe form of energy without being open about its inherent risks.

It said NISA, which was under the economic ministry, was a toothless entity that failed to live up to its expected role. The government is in the process of overhauling the agency to make it more independent and effective.

The report was handed over to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda after the panel members approved it in their final meeting Monday. He said he will use the findings and recommendations to help guide the revamped regulatory agency, which is to start up by September.

"We take it seriously," Noda said of the report.

The panel said the government and TEPCO failed to prevent the crisis not because such a large tsunami was unanticipated but because they were reluctant to invest time, effort and money in protecting against a natural disaster considered unlikely. TEPCO had even weighed in on a report about earthquake risk and asked the government to play down the likelihood of a tsunami in the region, the report said.

Those finding echo a Diet-sponsored investigation released earlier this month that said the disaster was a result of collusion between the government, regulators and the utility. That report said the accident was "man-made."

The latest report said poor crisis management prompted then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet to excessively intervene in plant operations, but that only added to the chaos.

The report criticized Kan's office for controlling information, delaying crucial announcements to the public and overly softening expressions about the severity of the accident, causing confusion, threats to health and public distrust in the government.

Political leaders were upset after a NISA official let it slip on March 12 that the reactors were possibly melting down, the report said. After that, all NISA announcements had to be run by the prime minister's office. NISA denied meltdowns for months afterwards.

The panel interviewed more than 770 people, including plant workers, government officials and evacuees, for a total of nearly 1,500 hours.

The report also didn't find any clear evidence that the initial impact of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake had caused major damage that would trigger radiation leaks from the reactors. That conclusion contradicts a parliament-appointed panel report, which one of the reactors that melted down had leaks that probably were caused by the earthquake.

Committee chairman Yotaro Hatamura said in a closing note that Japan "should take the accident as a reminder from nature that humans' way of thinking can be defective."

"We must never forget this disaster and continue to learn the lessons from it," he said.


Japan s trade minister claims he didn t deliberately mislead

At a parliamentary investigation on Sunday, Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, testified that he did not deliberately mislead the Japanese public about the true extent of last year's nuclear crisis at Fukushima. He says that in the immediate aftermath of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, the government did not have a complete understanding of how bad the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was. Edano has been seen as responsible for not disclosing the full details of the accident or complete health risk information.

Apologizing for the government's misjudgment, Edano stresses that there was no form of cover-up. At the time, he repeatedly used the phrases "no immediate risk" and "just to be safe," because that's what officials truly thought was the nature of the situation. It wasn't until sometime after the disaster that the government admitted that three of the Fukushima cores had melted down, resulting in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

A separate investigation filed a report in February, stating that central Japanese government had deliberately withheld information about the disaster from the public and the U.S. government, thus resulting in a growing distrust and putting a strain on the relationship with Japan's biggest ally. Edano acknowledged that the U.S. government was frustrated by the lack of accurate information from Japan, and had requested to put American nuclear experts in the prime minister's office. Edano refused, however, on the grounds that as a sovereign nation, Japan has the right to make decisions without foreign officials in its presence.

15/03/2011 11:08:45 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Tuesday Morning, 8:15 AM, Montreal Time
Hi Nozomi,
I don't know what your situation is like and whether you are able to hear the latest news. In the west we hear there is serious danger from the nuclear plants. There have been explosions and news reports there is a real danger of radiation leaks and more explosions.
It would be best if you could leave Japan or at least travel very far from the nuclear reactors. This is not gossip but serious news reports.
Please let me know your situation and let me know Shinya's family name. It was difficult to search for you without knowing it.
I check my email day and night.
Take care of yourselves. Nothing is more important than protecting your family.
Canadian news is reporting interviews with nuclear experts. Radiation leaking from the reactors is already a danger. Even though the effects may not be shown immediately, the radiation is in the air and being breathed in and spreading onto everything. It cannot be seen or felt but there is serious health danger, especially to children.
Hi Nozomi,
We are following the news here day and night. We have seen the new explosions on TV and we are hearing about the dangers of radiation falling there.
Keep in touch with us. We don't know where you are or your circumstances. With continuing tremors and explosions, we are concerned for your safety all the time.
Hi Nozomi,
Thank you so much for writing. You are right. We in the West are hearing that your government may not be telling you all the truth abut the danger. We are also hearing conflicting reports, but there is radiation leaking from the plants already and there have been  more explosions. You cannot be too careful
I strongly suggest that you move as far away from the plants as you possibly can. I am not trying to frighten you. but to protect you. The danger is real. The radiation that has already been released is in the air and can travel on the wind. It is a serious health threat when it is breathed in. It has no taste or smell. You cannot know it is there. Also the radiaton lands on everything including crops and food and water. There is not yet enough radiation to cause illness that everyone would feel - like upset stomach , vomiting etc. The smaller amounts of radiation can take years to show the effects. The danger is greatest to the children, but all life is affected.
You should not take the chance of staying, but leave as quickly as you can. I do not want to scare you or to upset you or make you panic. But to be safe, you should go quickly and as far as possible. No one can be sure about how these earthquakes and radiation leaks will increase or which way the wind will blow the radiation. So please go, and keep writing to me. I am telling Brian about everything. He has his mind in the sky trusting God. I trust good sense and reason and logic and I want you to be safe.
I check my email day and night, so keep writing and let me know where you are. Also, please tell me Shinya's family name in case we lose touch again.
Do you have money? I do not know how I could send money to you in these circumstances, but if you need some, I promise to help as much as I can.
Our news is now reporting that the danger has increased and people are fleeing. You must go. And be careful. And keep writing to me. They are now saying that the government is downplaying the danger. You must go south without delay. Do not wait.
Do not stay. Go. Now.

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